To become a VA-accredited claims agent, you must go through a formal application process and exam through the VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC). After an extensive background check, VA claims agent hopefuls take an exam that demonstrates proficient knowledge of VA benefits law and procedures in topics that include basic eligibility for VA benefits, rights to appeal and disability compensation.
How To Become A VA Accredited Claims Agent: The Process
The application process to become a claims agent can take a year or more The application is simple and asks basic questions about you and your education. After submitting my application by email it took two months to be contacted by phone from the VA OGC in which they asked additional questions about my employment history. After the call, they followed up by email with questions on my employment history which I answered and submitted to the VA OGC accreditation support specialist within two days. The OGC representative responded within a few days with the following message:
This message concerns your application for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accreditation as a claims agent. We write to inform you that we have sent letters to the individuals listed as character references on your application. We have requested that they respond within thirty days. After we receive their responses, we will continue to process your application.
I immediately notified my character references and they all submitted their letters within the required timeframe. After the thirty days had passed I followed up with the OGC program specialist by email to verify they had received the references and it turns out one of them had somehow not been received. I immediately contacted that reference and she resubmitted her reference and the OGC program specialist verified that he received it within a couple of days.
At this point, the VA begins a ‘character and fitness review’ which is an extensive background check. After four months I followed up with the OGC program specialist who replied that my application was still in the character and fitness review process. After another couple of months, I received an email from an OGC Staff attorney asking questions about a business I had recently set up that wasn’t mentioned on my application. I answered his questions within a day and then in late July, I received a call from the decision maker on my application, an OGC associate attorney, who asked about my membership in a Facebook group for veterans claims which I answered to her satisfaction. In late July I received an email message welcoming me to take the exam.
The OGC Online VA Accredited Claims Agent Examination
Prior to 2020, the test was administered at the local Regional Office as a closed-book 28 question paper test. With the advent of COVID-19 and the ROs being closed to the public and employees working from home, the OGC developed an online version of the test. Still closed book, the test is now 40 questions. You must get 75% correct. That means you must answer 30 of the 40 questions correctly. There are no True/False. All multiple choice. There are no ‘scenario’ type questions where a scenario is presented and the next few questions are based on that scenario. Once you select the answer and go to the next question you cannot go back to review.
You will be asked to show your workspace on video prior to the start. No phones, study materials, or other electronic devices. You cannot have others in the room with you. You have 60 minutes to complete the exam. You will need to turn down your speaker volume so others won’t disturb you. The proctor will need to listen to your side so don’t turn off your microphone or video. You cannot have a background effect on during the test.
You will be using MS Teams for the test. The link will be in the email explaining the rules and the test situation. This can be a free download or web based. You will see others logged in and they will see you. Have your ID ready but I did not need to use it. You will be able to speak to the proctor or text. I found it easier to text on the screen so as to not disturb others or have people talking over each other. Have the 5 digit Applicant ID ready and the state you are working from. The session will be recorded.
You will be asked to copy a link to be placed into a browser. The link is ‘Live Assessments (VBA Training.org) and will be presented by the proctor on screen in the Teams chatbox. Follow the on-screen instructions. Click the ‘Begin Here’ green button. And, now you are off to the races.
My GUESS is this is probably a selection of a multitude of questions available for testing. I cannot see them using the same exact questions test after test. But, I could be wrong.
Below is a list of subjects as I remember. Certainly not complete and in no particular order. By reading this you can see the test is very comprehensive. In addition, while the questions are not really ‘tricky’ you must read the question and not ‘read into it’. This is not secretive information since various sample tests are available on the web.
VA Secretary duties
Adjustments to a rating based on the change in law
Deadlines and times of evidence submission for filing
Benefit of the doubt
Types of service connection
When can you charge fees as an agent
Rules on favorable findings
Evidence submitted to the AOJ on legacy appeals
Time frames on HLRs and supplemental claims
5, 10, 20-year rating protection rules
CAVC time frames after VBA decision
Pension effective dates
Effective date of dependent education benefits
Pension versus compensation
Order of receipt of death benefits
Qualifier for dependent child
Pre-existing condition prior to entry.
Withdrawal as representative
Presumption of soundness
Time limits on legacy appeals
Definition of disability impairments with regard to earning capacity
Date of reductions
Who can be accredited
After The VA Claims Agent Examination: Pass or Fail
After completing the exam I returned it to the office staff who told me it would likely be a couple of weeks before I received the results.
To my surprise, I was notified that I passed the exam on the afternoon of the same morning that I took it. I was ecstatic to receive the following email:
Dear XXX: It is a pleasure to welcome you as an accredited claims agent for the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for veterans’ benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Your accreditation is effective from the date of this email. Please read this email carefully to understand your responsibilities as a VA-accredited agent. Fees for Representation (38 C.F.R. § 14.636) Please note that, under the laws governing representation, no person may charge claimants a fee for assistance in preparing applications for VA benefits or presenting claims to VA. Only VA-accredited agents and attorneys may charge fees for assisting in a claim for VA benefits, and only after VA has decided the claim, a notice of disagreement has been filed initiating an appeal of that decision, and the agent or attorney has complied with the power-of-attorney requirements in 38 C.F.R. § 14.631 and the fee agreement requirements in 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(g). See 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1); 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(c). VA regulations also provide that an organization with a financial interest in the successful outcome of a claim is not a disinterested third party and, as a result, may not pay an agent for assisting claimants prior to the filing of a notice of disagreement on a claim. See 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(d)(2). Annual Certification (38 C.F.R. § 14.629(b)(4)) VA regulations impose annual reporting requirements for agents. Each agent must annually provide VA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) information about every court, bar, or Federal or State agency to which he or she is admitted to practice or entitled to appear. The agent must provide identification numbers and membership information for each court, bar, or Federal or State agency to which he or she is admitted and certify in writing to OGC that he or she is in good standing with respect to each such admission to practice. Any changes in the agent’s status to practice in a given jurisdiction must be reported to OGC within 30 days of such change. Please mail your annual certification to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the General Counsel (022D), 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420. In lieu of mailing, you may submit your annual certification by facsimile to (202) 273-6404 or as a .pdf file sent firstname.lastname@example.org. No particular form is required for these submissions. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) (38 C.F.R. § 14.629(b)(1)(iii) and (iv)) To maintain your accreditation, you must complete three hours of qualifying CLE within one year of your accreditation. To qualify, a CLE course must be approved for a minimum of three hours of CLE credit by any State bar association and, at a minimum, must cover the following topics: representation before VA, claims procedures, basic eligibility for VA benefits, right to appeal, disability compensation (38 U.S.C. chapter 11), dependency and indemnity compensation (38 U.S.C. chapter 13), and pension (38 U.S.C. chapter 15). You must also complete an additional three hours of qualifying CLE on veterans benefits law and procedure not later than three years from the date of your accreditation and every two years thereafter. You must certify to this office in writing that you have completed these CLE requirements. This certification must include the title of the CLE, the date and time of the CLE, and contact information for the CLE provider, and must be submitted to OGC as part of the annual “good standing” certification requirements. Do not separately submit a certification regarding your completion of CLE but include it with the annual good standing certification. Your CLE certification must include the following information: name of accredited individual, title of the CLE, date and time of the CLE, identification of the CLE provider. Standards of Conduct (38 C.F.R. § 14.632) VA regulations also establish uniform standards of conduct for all persons providing representation before VA. The standards of conduct require honesty, competence, and diligence for persons providing representation and prohibit specific conduct including violation of the rules governing representation, delaying claim processing, charging fees contrary to law, and disclosing claimant information without authorization. VA accreditation is for the sole and limited purpose of assisting and representing claimants before VA; VA accreditation may not be used for any other purpose, such as to market financial products or promote a financial services business. Violation of the standards of conduct may result in suspension or cancellation of accreditation under 38 C.F.R. § 14.633. We encourage you to review VA’s regulations governing representation, including fees, at 38 C.F.R. §§ 14.626-14.637. We look forward to working with you. Please note that we will make your name and contact information publicly available at the Office of the General Counsel website, http://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp. Please let us know if you would like us to change the contact information that appears on the website. You are responsible for informing us when your contact information changes. If, at any time, you would like us to cancel your accreditation, you must inform us of such request. If you have questions regarding accreditation, we recommend that you review our “Frequently Asked Questions” page at http://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.aspbefore contacting this office at email@example.com.
And that was it! I am officially a VA Claims agent. In total, my process to become a VA Accredited Claims Agent took nine months. I have heard from others recently that their process was nearly two years. Hopefully, that changes real soon. I was also listed on the ebenefits and myhealthevet websites as a VA Accredited Claims Agent and given a three-letter “POA Code” within a week of my acceptance.
If you happen to fail the VA Accredited Claims Agent exam the first time be not dismayed. They will let you retake the test again at a later date.
Happy studying, friends! If you have any questions on the process or exam drop them in the comments!
The legal requirements for a claims agent are outlined in full here: CFR § 14.629: Requirements for Accreditation. For more information on training to become an agent, salary insights and study materials see: www.vaclaimsagent.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join our Facebook Group for VA Claims Agents and Aspiring VA Claims Agents here at facebook.com/groups/vaclaimsagents.
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